The growth in peanut production in South Carolina is about as close to phenomenal as agricultural production gets. The state has gone from a few thousand acres at the turn of the millenium to what some predict may push 70,000 acres in 2011.

Two factors may dampen the projected growth, the availability of low cost calcium for Virginia type peanuts and the continued growth of herbicide resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed through the South Carolina peanut belt.

One of the small, but important factors in South Carolina’s rise to peanut prominence in the Southeast has been a readily available supply of calcium, sold at a low price as a byproduct of electricity generation by Santee-Cooper.

Pending changes in Federal legislation may force the big power cooperative to change the way they manage sulfur emissions, and long story short, may eliminate over 50,000 tons of calcium carbonate that goes into South Carolina peanut production.

If the company is forced out of the gypsum/calcium business, and politics being what they are in today’s society, this may or may not happen, it would cause many South Carolina peanut farmers to seek alternative sources of calcium.

Though there are other options for calcium to meet the demands for peanut production, the loss of the Santee-Cooper source would force South Carolina growers into a higher cost, higher risk production system, especially for Virginia type peanuts.

Prior to the dramatic rise in peanut production in South Carolina, Santee Cooper’s calcium carbonate was left in slurry form and sent to land-fills. In 2004, they obtained a license to manufacture and sell the solid form of calcium carbonate into the agricultural market.

One option is foliar calcium, but this is not a good option according to University of Georgia Soil Scientist Glen Harris. He says, “Let me make it clear that ‘foliar’ calciums are not recommended by UGA on peanuts since the material does not supply near enough calcium, and the calcium does not translocate through the leaves to the developing pods.”

Liquid calcium is another source, but also not nearly as cost effective as solid forms of calcium, like the Santee-Cooper product. Liquid calcium may come in one of several forms, including a simple combination of liquid lime and liquid gypsum in a suspension with water. Or, it can be used as calcium chloride or calcium thisosulfate.